Summar Breeze Ruelle is a vibrant, beautiful, outgoing 37 year-old Southern California native. She has had a 14 year career as an IT Business Analyst, which convened in Portland in 2010 when Columbia Sportswear Company relocated her and her family for a new software system implementation project. Despite the challenges of moving to a new city and state, including being away from lifelong friends and family, Summar and her Husband Pascal, partner of 20+ years, were thrilled about the beauty and opportunity the location offered for work, play, and to raise a family. Summar has a long track record as a competitive and recreational runner, and most importantly is a loving Wife and Mother of two, Jayden Blaise, age 7 and Sapphire Lorayne, age 5. On Thursday September 6, 2012, this incredible woman was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. To say it was a shock, is an understatement. Four days later, after a Nuclear PET Scan was conducted for staging purposes, it was learned that the cancer had already metastasized (spread) to her bones (spine, hip, ribs, collar bone), and axillary lymph nodes, making this diagnosis much more devastating, as it was now considered Stage IV, an incurable form of this disease, in which less than 5% of patients are staged at, from initial diagnosis. Her and her husband were thrust into a storm of unknowns, and the fear of a life to be cut short, with statistics indicating a median survival of 24 to 36 months.
It's important to note, that Summar was prompted to see a doctor after finding a lump in her left breast upon a self breast exam, after feeling discomfort in that region. Being somewhat young, 35 at the time, there would have never been any reason for doctors to recommend a preventative, routine mammogram, and in fact, despite having other health concerns throughout 2011, none of the multiple doctors she was under the care of, speculated that cancer could be rampant in her body. Doctors explained away complaints of extreme fatigue, leaving Summar to attribute this symptom to long, stressful work hours, and the typical effort required to care for two young children 5 and 3, at the time and to maintain a household.
Ironically, the year prior to Summar's diagnosis, she had been concentrating on her health, after finally being settled in the Portland area after 2 years, and weaning her second child from nursing after 20 months. With a focus on diet, and daily exercise including running, boot camp, kick-boxing, cardio-combat and hiking among the beautiful Oregon terrain; she lost nearly 50 pounds to get to an ideal weight. Summar felt she was doing everything possible to proactively and positively impact her health. But that's the thing that is difficult to accept about cancer; in the majority of cases, there is no rhyme or reason as to who is affected, and evidence as to exactly why. In Summar's case, there is no genetic predisposition to cancer identified, nor any particular risk factors known, leaving her to wonder if there was an environmental exposure, or the cause a contributor such as the contaminated food chain and other chemical exposures we are subjected to on a daily basis, that she would over time research and become much more knowledgeable about.
Amazingly, this life altering news didn't stop Summar from running the Annual Portland Race for the Cure, which she had signed up for, on her Employer's team, months prior to learning of her diagnosis. She ran the full race (8k) on September 16, despite the fact she had already started treatment and was suffering from over a 100 degree fever, a reaction from a bone therapy infusion administered 2 days earlier. Summar was accompanied by her family for this event and lifelong friend Farrell, who helped to tend to Sapphire who also had a fever that day. Little did anyone know at that time, Summar and Pascal's Daughter's fever, was something much more serious than could ever be imagined.
On Monday September 17, through the chaos of managing new treatments, scheduling surgeries, and caring for her children, Summar and her husband Pascal learned that their beautiful 3 year old daughter, Sapphire, had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. These health crisis' made it necessary for both adults to stop working immediately, resulting in an immense financial strain on the family, as they continue to live on Summar's disability income. Pascal, has become a dedicated, primary Caregiver of both girls, transporting both to doctor appointments, accompanying one or the other during the numerous hospital stays, administering medications, managing medical bills, and taking on many of the household responsibilities previously handled by Summar. His support for his family has been immeasurable and unwaivered despite the immense stress cancer imposes upon a family unit.
For Summar, with a diagnosis of Stage IV Breast Cancer, also known as Metastatic Breast Cancer, because the cancer has spread to a distant region of the body, Summar will remain on treatment the remainder of her days, in effort to extend her life. Her Oncologists will never be in a position to tell her she is "cancer free" or in remission as the cancer has "seeded" in her body, but from time to time, scan results may indicate no evidence of disease, simply because cancer cells may not be large enough to image at a given time. In effort to minimize the cancer and prevent further metastasis, Summar has endured to date, a surgery to remove her ovaries, a mastectomy of her left breast with the removal of 17 lymph nodes, 35 consecutive radiation treatments to the chest wall and under arm area, hormone blocking therapy (as estrogen feeds her type of breast cancer) and bone treatment administered every 28 days, in addition to 18 consecutive radiation treatments to her lower spine and right hip where cancer has progressed most recently this Spring. The cancer itself and the treatments she endures, result in many side effects impacting quality of life, including fatigue, chronic pain, lymphadema, a compromised immune system, migraines, nausea and vomiting. Regardless, Summar continues to be a remarkable advocate for herself, continuously surprising her care providers with her knowledge, and the active role she takes to care for not only her body, but mind, and spirit. Though the concern for her longevity lingers, she strives to find joy in each and every day; to make memories with her family, to teach her children lifelong lessons, and emphasize the values of friendship, family, loving and helping others. Furthermore, despite this large burden Summar continues to endure, she is dedicated to making a difference, to impact the current statistic of 40,000 individuals each year, which die from this disease. She has stepped up the plate as the very first volunteer Ambassador in the Pacific Northwest for the organization METAVIVOR.org, which provides support to patients and funding of research grants, all in effort to transition metastatic breast cancer from a terminal diagnosis to a chronic, manageable disease with a decent quality of life. By doing such work, Summar hopes she is able to give back to the community which has embraced her and her family during this difficult time, by providing meals, childcare, monetary and personal support. Each and every act of kindness received has touched the Ruelle family in a positive way, making each day more bearable and providing hope in the darkest moments.
The Ruelle family is STRONG. The Ruelle family is RESILIENT. They have the love and support of an amazing network of people including friends and family. But they would benefit greatly from your generosity. A donation in any amount would help relieve one of the pressures this family does not need right now-the financial one. Funds would go directly to the family.